Miniatur Wunderland

Oh those Germans. From high-performance cars (and the most high performance highways to drive them on), to their high-speed rail systems, you could say that highly efficient transportation is a national obsession. So much so that miniature railroading is one of the most popular hobbies in the Rhineland. And so it is fitting that Hamburg Germany is home to the world’s largest model railroad, but Miniatur Wunderland is so much more. Cars and trucks traverse picturesque highways, a fire department responds to emergencies, even an airport is represented in scale miniature, complete with planes landing and taking off. Miniatur Wunderland is an engineering marvel to behold, and truly a high temple to the most revered element of German life, efficiency.

You can find more videos and information on their website, miniatur-wunderland.com . Fair warning, many of the videos are in German, which is how I learned that the German word for ‘space shuttle’ is, space shuttle. Enjoy!

Happy anniversary Apollo 11

Today marks the forty-fourth anniversary of the Apollo 11 crew touching down in their Lunar Module, The Eagle, at the Sea of Tranquility. Sadly, this is the first anniversary of the event since the passing of its commander, Neil Armstrong. This is a video that I made a little while ago, using actual photos from that historic mission. Enjoy!

The music is Gustav Holst’s Venus, The Bringer of Peace.

War Games or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Arcade

I was recently reading through the fantastic blog, Recollections of Play, and I came upon this post about one of my favorite arcade games, Galaga. Well, it got me thinking and bein’ all nostalgic.

I was born in 1986, so I came of gaming age just toward the tail end of the “Golden Age of Arcade Games“. Growing up in a large family means growing up with the hand-me-downs of the oldest generation of cousins who grew up with the hand-me-downs of the youngest of the previous generation, with new items sporadically entering circulation. It’s the circle of stuff.

I was am lucky. I have an older cousin who is a video game fanatic. My aunt would often take us to the local arcades that my brother and I weren’t old enough to go to on our own, and when my cousin got Super-NES, I got his old NES. With these experiences came an appreciation for the older games. Sure I loved Sonic the Hedgehog and Mortal Kombat, but while the chunky graphics of Super Mario Bros. for NES were totally outdated by the time the console found its way to my house, I still played the hell out of it every afternoon. Time passed and the NES was swapped out for a 64 and eventually I found myself in high school. I know, can’t you just see that as a montage at the beginning of a Pixar movie, a la Up?

Carl and Ms. Packman

When I was in high school there was a cafe that us no-good kids would hang out in that had an arcade attached to it. The games were all of a 70’s-80’s vintage and were mostly there for kitsch instead of play, part of the reason the place went out of business. I was familiar with most of the games, some of them, like Rampage and Paperboy, I had on my old NES at home. There was one game, however, that was a stranger to me. It didn’t have a joystick, but a trackball instead. It was called Missile Command.

Watch out for Sputnik

From the first quarter I dropped in the machine, Missile Command became my favorite game in the whole arcade. The graphics looked straight out of War Games and it was absolutely drenched with Reagan-era Cold War paranoia. I heard that the enemy in the game was supposed to be an invading alien army. Yeah, right! An invading alien army with MiG-29’s and Sputniks? I think not! This was all out war with the Russians and I was controlling a Star Wars-esque defense system, the last hope for the land of the free. This game is about fighting aliens like M.A.S.H. is about the Korean War.

An invading alien army with MiG-29’s and Sputniks? I think not!

Another thing was happening at the time I was in high school also. While my parents had the Cold War to worry about, I had the war on terror. You know how I grew up with hand-me-downs from the previous generation? Well I guess I got their paranoia. Looking back, it was impossible not to be paranoid. The new was always talking about terrorists, the government was coming up with color coded threat levels, people with SUVs were funding terrorism. I was constantly being terrorized, not by terrorism, but by everyone else who couldn’t shut up about it. Looking back, the one place where I wasn’t constantly bombarded by terrorism was the arcade, where I chose to play out the doomsday scenario of my parent’s war of paranoia. At least that war was over, and at least with Missile Command, I was in control. It’s funny the things we do for comfort, and it’s also funny that I never saw the irony in my actions until just now. I guess it was just a really good game.

The picture says it all.

If at first you don’t succeed… Michael Mann

Lots of people saw Heat and lots of ’em loved it. What many people don’t know is that the writer/director of Heat, Michael Mann, had based the 1995  film on a TV movie from 1989 called LA Takedown. Sure that doesn’t seem so unusual, except for one thing, Michael Mann wrote and directed LA Takedown as well! Second chances are rare, even more so in hollywood.

Michael Mann had originally wanted to make LA Takedown as a theatrical release, but it didn’t happen, so he made it a TV movie. After the success of Last of the Mohicans in 1992, Michael and his script were given a second chance and the far superior, to the TV original, Heat was made. It is fascinating to watch the original and observe the differences and similarities. I remember Michael Mann saying that one of the reasons he remade the movie was because of the wider aspect ratio that the cinema allows for. Upon my first viewing of Takedown I immediately noticed how vertical everything is, compared to the much more horizontal Heat. Of particular note is the shot of the forklift at the very beginning of the movie that creates a centered box within the boxy Academy ratio frame. In one scene, however, Mann does manage to create a horizontal aspect ratio by placing the camera so that it is masked by two horizontal objects in the foreground, allowing only a wide rectangle of view.

Even though the big screen version is far better, this is the kind of craftsmanship that is so sadly absent from  the televised dramas of today. I have found the entire film on Youtube, although it is not available in full resolution. If you have the time and you want to see a great piece of television, and a great cops and robbers movie, I definitely suggest giving LA Takedown a watch.

Enjoy, and thanks for reading.

I’m back

So I’m looking for a job in a new city. Actually I’ve already found it and I hope that they hire me. I just did a Skype interview today and I think it went pretty well but the whole experience was, while more convenient than driving eight hours both ways, lacking a certain I don’t know what, a real connection I guess. But otherwise it felt like I nailed it.

Now I’m facing the issue of housing. I would need to relocate for this job, or commute sixteen hours a day, and new city is much more expensive than old city. I am trying to figure out how many nights I can sleep on one couch, how many couches I can  crash on, and how many nights on couches that gives me before I need to be in my own apartment.

What a bunch of bullshit to go through to work for someone else.

“Je ne sais quoi is a terrible thing to be have in a french hospital.” – Brian

Yo Gabba Gum Commercial

Matt Fackrell is a director for the children’s show “Yo Gabba Gabba” and for Kaboom! Productions, a commercial production company located in San Francisco, and his commercials always get at least a giggle out of me. Here’s one for Stride starring a chewed piece of  gum that has been abandoned under a desk by its beloved owner. You can see the sequel commercials by clicking the link above and viewing Matt’s reel.

“His breath stunk like a parade of wet skunks!”

Gumbel Soundtrack

Here is a link to the soundtrack to my favorite web series: Gumbel.

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/9488027/Gumbel_%20The%20Soundtrack.zip dl.dropbox.com

And here is a link to my favorite web series: Gumbel.

http://www.channel101.com/show/75

And here is the first episode of my favorite web series: Gumbel.

Gumbel: Ep. 1